Cutmark data and their implications for the planning depth of Late Pleistocene societies
Cutmarks provide empirical evidence for the exploitation of animal resources by past human groups. Their study may contribute substantially to our knowledge of economic behavior, including the procurement of prey and the analysis of butchery sequences. Butchering practices can be investigated using cutmark illustrations recorded on bone templates. In this paper, quantitative data on cutmarks were derived from published and unpublished cutmark drawings for 27 French assemblages dated between the late Middle Paleolithic and the final Upper Paleolithic. The analysis of cutmark data on meaty long bones (humerus, radio-ulna, femur, tibia) highlights strong variations in cutmark length and orientation in the sample that potentially reflect significant shifts in meat processing strategies during the Late Pleistocene. The present study shows that long longitudinal cutmarks are considerably more frequent during the Late Glacial Maximum than in the early Upper Paleolithic. Although the number of studies is small, actualistic data generated in controlled settings indicate that long longitudinal cutmarks are commonly produced during filleting, an activity closely associated with meat preservation, as is the case with drying and smoking. Because they provide information on possible changes in the capacity for anticipation, these results have potentially important implications for the logistical and economic organization of Paleolithic hominins.